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It begins…..

January 13, 2012

Tuesday 10 January

I tend not to be very good at going on holiday. I don’t really get excited; all I can generally think about is the likely size of my inbox on my return. Needless to say this kind of takes the edge of the holiday, especially when the holiday is a long one.  

This year is different. I have been pretty unwell since the 20December and I cant wait to stop for a while. I finally went to the doctor on the 3January. The delay was not entirely my fault. Christmas and going to my mum’s got in the way and due to the way the bank holidays then fell it was near impossible to make an appointment. The answerphone at the surgery just told me that they were currently closed. When they finally did open on the 3rd the automated message helpfully told me the opening times over the holiday period – this crucial bit of information having being turned off when the surgery was closed.

The doctor signed me off for a week but given that I am going away for three weeks this was not really very helpful. I have two large projects which are in their final stages so have a fair bit of work to get through before I go away. I work in short bursts whilst I have the energy and then have to collapse for a few hours and go to sleep.

It is a long time since I have felt this ill. I can barely stay awake for longer than a couple of hours at a time and when I am awake find it very hard to concentrate; I am not eating and have not had any alcohol since Christmas day. Times are pretty hard.

Things do get gradually better through the week though. And by this morning, having packed last night, I feel better than I have done for the best part of three weeks. I am at least now eating.

I took the decision earlier in the week to upgrade to Premium Economy for the flight out. It was £150 and I am not really sure what I am getting is going to be worth it but when I booked the upgrade I thought that if nothing else the extra room has got to be worth it not really knowing how I was going to be feeling.

I think for the first time on a transatlantic trip my flights are at a very civilised time. I take off from Heathrow Terminal 5 at 3.15pm and land at 7pm in Phoenix. The journey up to Heathrow is completely without issue. Almost unbelievably everything runs to time and I arrive an hour before the baggage drop is open. I have checked in already online and booked my seat.

I order a Hot pulled pork shoulder bap for £.5.95 at bar to kill some time not really expecting much and wondering whether I will actually be able to eat it all – I am feeling better but still not really eating very much. I wasn’t expecting much but the food when it arrived was fantastic.

Things are all going too smoothly; I am worried.

Bag drop is fine. One of the benefits of the upgrade I discover is a fast track through security. I manage not to set off the metal detector (which is a first, I always seem to set them off) and have the best part of three hours to kill wandering around the shops.

First issue; the book shops and their selection are terrible. As is the selection of single malt.

I wait.

It turns out I also get fast track boarding. I like getting on a plane and having to turn left.

The flight is very smooth. I watch a couple of films (Contagion – not the best film to watch on a flight. Synopsis – killer disease spreads global bugger all we can do about it. And Moneyball  – Baseball. Stats are more reliable that human judgements. Emotion is for losers) have a couple of glasses of wine to pass the time. I don’t sleep.

The upgrade also means I am one of the first off the plane so I get to immigration very quickly. I also worry about immigration on the US side. It has been a nightmare in the past (one day I might post my Minneapolis experience with Uncle Bill)  but I sail through and am at the baggage collection in record time.

I meet my father, his partner and my 5 year old brother and we go to the hotel. I stay up for a bit and have a drink with my father before going to bed. We have to be up early. We have a long drive tomorrow.

That’s it. I am here. No disasters. No delays. Really quite dull; Just how you want it to be.

 

Wednesday 11 January – The Road Trip

Picture: Red dust stretches as far you can see. A giant cactus straight out of a cowboy film blurred as it flashes through the frame. Bright sunlight silhouettes the mountains in the background. They appear in sharp focus against the blue cloudless sky.

 

A few days before leaving my father has raised the possibility that I may be driving a car back down to Mexico. They have recently traded in the motorhome and taken a car as part of the deal. If it is ready I will be driving the car they came up in back down to Mexico.

Whilst only a “possibility” I know this is going to happen.

It has. I am driving the Honda back down to Mexico. In preparation I have made a couple of mix CDs and brought a pile of disks to listen to. It is a good 6 hour drive.

I had not been looking forward to this. Not least because I was not sure how I was going to be feeling. As it turns out, I am feeling quite good and half an hour into the drive am really quite pleased with how things have worked out. I have music on, the roads are pretty quiet and nobody can say they landscape isn’t dramatic.

The US – Mexico border is astonishing, it goes on for miles and is not really like any other border than I have been through. There are multiple gates. One leaving the US, one going into Mexico, immigration into Mexico and then toll gates to get on to the freeway. Immigration into Mexico is lesson in red tape. You enter one building so they can check passport and give you a form which they can then stamp. You take this form into a another building (a open sided tin roofed structure that looks like a cross between a bank and supermarket check out) so that you can fill in another form, adding this to the original form and pay some money and collect a further stamp. You then take this form back to the first building so they can check the two forms, fill in another part of the form, remove this and add a further stamp to the collection. With this in hand you can return to your vehicle and proceed through a further customs/ immigration barrier.

Apparently this is the simplified method which came in last year.

Mexico is much more mountainous than I had imagined it would be.

The roads range from average (good in places) to indescribably poor. The Mexican government also have a sneaky habit of putting the most severe traffic calming measures in the form of pronounced humps in the road (two lane dual carriageway) without warning. If you are not a) paying very careful attention and b) travelling at less than 10 mph you risk righting off the car and doing yourself some serious damage in the process. My father is in the car in front so he gets to encounter them first.

An eagle swoops down and flies alongside me for a minute or so.

As dusk is falling we arrive. It has been a long trip. I need to go to bed.

 

Thursday 12 January – Home

It is a building site.

My father is building from scratch on a plot of land he has bought.

It is not finished.

Not even close.

 

To be continued…..

 

 

 

 

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